In response to the rash of violent robberies and 'worsening
security situation', some NGOs have begun to seriously consider arming their
guards and themselves. In addition, at the recent meeting with diplomats and
NGOs, one solution offered by Co-Prime Minister Hun Sen was armed guards
seconded from the Ministry of Interior. Will that really solve the problem?
Perhaps it is an attractive option as it allows us to 'do something' without
really dealing with the source of the violence which affects all residents of
Yet in the rush to 'do something' such rash violent reactions
to an already violent situation are more likely to increase rather than curb the
violence. According to a recent study conducted in three American cities,
instead of protection, a handgun in a home almost triples the chances that
someone will be killed there. More importantly, perhaps we should ask ourselves
why we 'aid workers' allow ourselves to be sucked into the myth of solving
problems with violent means?
Rather than adding fuel to the fire
shouldn't we be trying to find creative, constructive ways to put out the fire?
As humanitarian workers don't we usually pride ourselves on thinking of ways to
improve society 'develop' communities? Then why the knee-jerk trigger happy
response? As one NGO worker said, "the day we start arming ourselves to protect
our cars is the day we should go home."
As Martin Luther King Jr. taught
us "The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral,
begetting the very thing that it seeks to destroy ... Returning violence for
violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid
Some Cambodian colleagues have tried to begin searching for
alternatives. One suggested "Shouldn't we call for removing the weapons rather
than add more? How will that help solve the problem? We will just have more
shoot-outs. Instead of offering guns to NGOs the government should collect and
ban all guns, and punish those caught with them."
heard was "The thieves want the newest model 1994 Land Cruisers, so why don't
the NGOs just sell those models off and put up with driving in older, cheaper
cars? They will still get them where they have to go." Surely these are not the
best nor the only solutions, but the point is we should use our time and energy
to come up with other options than simply going for the draw.
Dalai Lama said: "It would be great if violence worked. But unfortunately it
just causes more problems than it solves. Let's try to really solve the
- Liz Bernstein